Managed Services in 2014 – How is it Evolving?

Managed services as a topic in and of itself doesn’t always get the attention topics such as cloud and mobility do. That’s largely because managed services covers such a large umbrella of technology services that it can often be absent from conversations about specific solutions. It’s important to relate these single solutions back to managed services because it changes the way they are consumed, designed and supported. Take note of the following predicted managed services trends for 2014 and how you can use them to improve business.

Enterprise Content Management

More than 60 per cent of midsize businesses are using Microsoft SharePoint to organise and share information, according to Forrester. TechNavio anticipates the global enterprise content management (ECM) market to increase to $9.6 billion in 2014. ECM can help businesses improve records management, search and e-discovery and document capture. A managed services provider can help integrate organisations’ disparate data and management systems to improve content workflows and accessibility. And as Ovum expects mobility, social media and cloud computing to transform ECM in 2014, business can take advantage of a managed services provider to help incorporate these additional capabilities into a complete ECM solution that fully allows anytime, anywhere access to content of all types.

Managed security services

This year will be a particularly busy one for the managed security services — or MSS — market, according to Gartner. The research firm predicts the MSS market to grow from $12 billion in 2013 to more than $22.5 billion by 2017. Increasing security threats brought about by BYOD and mobile apps and advanced persistent threats (APTs) coupled with a lack of internal resources to manage all these threats is driving the MSS growth. Australia already suffers from a lack of skilled IT resources, and the IT security realm is no different — a major risk when threats are continuously becoming more numerous and complex. The result will be more organisations enlisting the help of a third-party security service or managed services provider that can address incident response and detect APTs. In some instances, these managed resources will work with in-house staff and, at the very least, will educate internal employees on how to best protect the business.

Cloud services managed for you

As we’ve written before, consuming cloud through a managed services provider can help organisations leverage best-practice, enterprise-level technology and delivery methods. Having your cloud services managed for you by expert IT providers lowers risk and frees up internal IT staff time — it also makes the integration more seamless. With the recent rise in organisations using a multi-cloud approach — where businesses consume at least two different types of cloud services —, businesses will increasingly need a provider to procure, design and manage these different cloud service providers and platforms. This includes overseeing all the SLAs, performance metrics and billing for you.

What You Need to Know About Mobile Unified Communications

Unified communications once solely belonged to office desktops and laptops. While workers certainly needed a chance to communicate across departments and company locations, much of this collaboration was done at their desks. But now more and more Australian workers are using mobile devices at work, or bringing their own smartphones or tablets, spurring a need for unified communications solutions to be optimised for a mobile landscape. Enter mobile unified communications, or mobile UC. Mobile UC has started to take off thanks to the increased availability and stability of wireless networks and will no doubt evolve in 2014 and beyond. If you are in the midst of a mobility or BYOD transition or are planning one in the near future, here’s what to consider when it comes to mobile UC.

Fixed mobile convergence

The first step to mobile UC is typically fixed mobile convergence, which integrates public cellular services with private wireless networks. Control point-focussed, enterprise network fixed mobile convergence is currently used more often, and the most common implementation is mobile-to-mobile convergence, which provides the ability to transfer calls between networks to employees using dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets. This method basically identifies if the user is in the office and, if so, sends the call over wireless LAN. If not, the call goes to the person’s cell phone. This approach can limit costs as organisations can choose the least expensive option for routing the call.

Mobile UC on consumer devices

True mobile UC goes beyond sending a voice call to a cell phone. Here, presence comes into play, giving the user a directory of contacts and their availability on his or her mobile device. This ability lets the user make a voice call, send an SMS or email or start a conference. UC vendors are responding to the growing trend of enterprise mobility by enabling special mobile UC software on consumer devices using voice services and data connection.

There is also such a thing as a unified communications tablet making headway in the mobile UC realm. It’s a hybrid between a smartphone and a consumer tablet that integrates with the enterprise UC environment to deliver video conferencing, instant messaging, presence and other tools. These mobile UC devices can also support voice communications unlike regular tablets.

Giving frontline staff anywhere access to information

According to the IDC, enterprise productivity in Australia will increasingly be driven by unified messaging and mobile integration with email. The ability to tap into unified communications tools on a mobile device can “increase speed of responsiveness by giving frontline staff anywhere and everywhere access to corporate applications and information that will bring touch points closer to customers,” said Raj Mudaliar, IDC Australia senior analyst for IT services, in an article last year. Even if your organisation is not ready to take the leap to mobile UC, it pays to begin looking at your strategy to see if such a solution will make business sense in the next five years. Datacom’s unified communications team can assess your current communications infrastructure and business goals to determine the best mobile UC solution for you.

What 2014 Will Bring for Unified Communications

With cloud and mobility expected to affect many spheres of enterprise technology, unified communications is one area certain to feel both forces in 2014. The market is evolving and the communications needs of today’s professionals warrant more seamless, scalable solutions. As you plan your unified communications strategy for 2014 and beyond, consider these anticipated trends to ensure you are providing the best solutions for your organisation’s needs.

The rise of Microsoft Lync

Frost & Sullivan rank Microsoft Lync as No.1 in their list of seven disruptive trends for enterprise communications in 2014. Still considered a new kid on the block in the realm of unified communications in 2013, Lync is being consumed by organisations already using SharePoint, Active Directory and Microsoft e-mail. In 2014, more and more of these organisations will migrate to Lync for voice, messaging, presence and collaboration. Audrey William, head of research, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan Australia & New Zealand, said that Lync 2013 offers close to 95 per cent PBX functionality. For those who want to procure Lync 2013 and get it up and running quickly, Datacom offers a pre-configured Lync-in-a-box product that can be installed and managed internally, managed by us or managed from the cloud.

Unified Communications as a Service

Another unified communications trend on Frost & Sullivan’s list is Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS. Unified Communications as a Service is what it sounds like  communications and collaboration services managed by a third-party provider and delivered over an IP network. This approach can lower both capital and operational expenditures for organisations in addition to offering greater levels of availability and scalability. Frost & Sullivan believe more organisations will take advantage of Unified Communications as a Service in 2014 as they approach end of lifecycle for legacy unified communications technologies, leading them to consider a hosted or cloud-based option for solutions such as videoconferencing. Similarly, Gartner has predicted that the shortening product lifecycles for enterprise platforms and decreased interoperability between platforms will encourage a shift to a cloud or hosted model.

Collaboration across systems

Employees will continue to want to use unified communications tools on their mobile devices as they did in 2012 and 2013, but there will also be a rise in collaboration tools in CRM and content management systems. Why the need if you have an overarching collaboration tool in your business? Because tools matched to specific software systems allow users to collaborate when they need to in the space in which they are working. This trend will mean big things for data management and intelligence as information from a wider range of sources can be harnessed and inputted.

What 2014 Will Hold for Technology

As we did at the end of last year, we decided to once again survey some members of our business to see what they were looking forward to or predicting in the technology space for the new year. We got varied responses on everything from cyber security to government consumption of cloud services. Read along to see the answers and share your opinions in the comments section.

Innovating to fight the invisible battle

“Cyber-crime will continue to grow. Its effectiveness at extracting value through exploits will improve. As consumers, we expect things to connect and work together seamlessly across the internet. The cyber criminals, however, will continue to find holes in technology and use these vulnerabilities for personal gain…

“The exciting side of this will be the new wave of services to which companies will subscribe, which will give them a level of comfort that somebody is helping to protect their reputation online. The clever cyber warriors will aggregate critical security alerts from various sources and provide services 24×7 to organisations to defend, monitor and respond against the online world’s subversive element. It’ll be interesting to see how this invisible battle plays out in 2014.”

 Mark McWilliams, Datacom Director of Investments

Government cloud and the Internet of Things

“I’m looking forward to:

· A progressive year in the migration of Government to cloud based services.
· Continuous innovation in the Internet of Things to improve the way technology enhances our everyday life.”

 Tom Scicluna, Datacom New Technology & Innovation Business Manager

Smarter watches

“The tech I am looking forward to is a mature delivery of smart watches. The Galaxy Gear, for example, looks impressive, but for a first-generation device, it comes with a hefty price tag.  Second generation devices will hopefully bring greater battery life and more creativity for design combined with pricing less than a 7” tablet goes for.”

 Damon Wynne, Datacom South Australia Solution Architect

From cloud brokers to social calendaring 

“Body tech  body monitoring technologies integrated with mobile apps and cloud. Internet of everything  contextual automation and sequencing. Cloud brokers involved in moving companies from one cloud provider to the next seamlessly based on special offers and costs like credit cards. Social calendaring, mobile device diversity, application diversity and 3D printing.”

 Wasim Anwar, Datacom Western Australia Project Service Manager

3 Questions to Ask When Choosing Enterprise Collaboration Tools

The demand for employees to produce more by collaborating more remains a top priority for organisations of all sizes. Some take strict measures to foster in-person collaboration, such as Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer putting an end to permanent telecommuting. Others that don’t find in-person collaboration necessary — or that believe flexibility and mobility help foster collaboration — have attempted to use technology to provide a platform for collaboration. As you have a buffet of options when it comes to collaboration tools, ask yourself these three critical questions to ensure you choose the right ones for your business needs.

1. Do we want users to use collaboration tools relevant to their needs, or do we want a single solution to try and cater for everything? The truth is, many organisations believe an abundance of collaboration tools are currently available, namely online meeting software, phones, email, document management software and spread sheets for project-tracking. This is fine if you want to allow individual employees or departments to pick and choose the collaboration tools that work for them. However, these individual collaboration tools won’t provide one central location for employees to work together and in an automatic sequence. Organisations that want a streamlined approach to collaboration will need a technology integrator to source and tie together these tools to enable employees to work in a seamless, integrated way.

2. Does the solution match the way your employees want to collaborate? The last thing you want to do is purchase collaboration tools that your employees will never use. Ask yourself how the workforce will respond to using new collaboration tools. They should be involved in sharing and developing ideas from their own experience and methods of collaborating. You might even want to set up a pilot-testing committee to trial a range of collaboration tools. The key will be the ability to demonstrate how exactly these tools will drive efficiency and increased productivity compared with the old way of doing business. When you get majority buy-in, these individuals can then serve as evangelists who help indoctrinate the rest of your organisation to these tools.

3. Does the solution offer flexibility and scalability? Because workflow, routing and approval are central to many collaboration tools, the ability to modify these processes is essential. Some systems require extensive back-end work to accommodate even the smallest changes — and often burden your IT staff with the task of making them. As your organisation expands, can new employees be added to the solution with ease? In the event a key employee leaves the organisation, how easily can you replace or bypass this contributor in the system?

Collaboration tools can help your organisation boost productivity and response times, but only if you choose the ones that align with both your business and end-user needs.

Datacom Queensland Makes Grading, Homework and Communication Easier for St. Andrew’s School with Customisable SharePoint LMS

Technology is all the rage in schools these days.

Long gone are the days of blackboards and hard copy worksheets. Today’s students are learning on computers and iPads and turning in homework online. Teachers are sending secure emails to parents instead of written letters home. Class, homework and extracurricular schedules are now hosted online.

St. Andrew’s Anglican College, a primary and secondary school on the Sunshine Coast, saw these trends taking hold and decided last year to get into the tech game. In an effort to rebrand themselves as a leader in technology, they sought out Datacom’s help to build a secure, customisable, SharePoint-based learning management system, or LMS. This LMS system would enable electronic curriculum deployment, content management and communication among parents, teachers and students.

A secure, feature-rich SharePoint solution

Datacom knows SharePoint inside and out. The team in Queensland uses Datacom’s silver-level Microsoft competency skills in portals and collaboration to regularly implement tailored SharePoint solutions at various organisations and institutions. The customisable LMS solution they made available was perfectly suited to St. Andrew’s needs.

“After careful assessment of other learning management systems available, and comparison with our requirements, it was clear to us that building our own solution was the only option that would truly provide the functionality we needed,” says Rory Chapman, Director of ICT of St Andrew’s Anglican College. “Using Microsoft SharePoint as the basis for our learning management system made perfect sense to us. As Datacom developers were readily available, it could be heavily customised to suit our requirements. It could interact with the other systems and databases we had in place, and we were able to leverage our existing investment in Microsoft technology like Exchange and Live@edu.”

Datacom’s answer to these requests involved various customisable SharePoint Web Parts. This combination of native SharePoint and Web Parts means the LMS can be implemented as an entire packaged solution or as individual Web Parts to allow schools like St. Andrew’s to tailor the LMS to their needs. Some of the Web Parts used in St. Andrew’s SharePoint LMS solution include the Student Subject, Teacher Notes, School Calendar and Newsfeed.

LMS results in three levels of impact

The Datacom SharePoint LMS has made a world of difference at St. Andrew’s.

Coursework management is now centralised, with teachers able to drop assignments in an online drop box and students then completing them and dropping them back in. Students can do everything through the LMS portal, including interacting with other students, asking questions about projects and perusing study materials such as related web sites and videos. Everyone has a better handle on their schedules through the SharePoint LMS. Teachers can personalise their dashboards to view all the classes they teach and clubs or sports they coach in an aggregated timetable format. Students and parents can also keep track of assignments and after-school activities, and parents and teachers can communicate with each other if necessary.

And those are just a few of the benefits of the LMS. Not only did the LMS immediately ease several communication and collaboration pain points for all members of the St. Andrew’s community, it also lays the foundation for more innovation going forward.

“After the initial deployment of SharePoint, we have been amazed at the take-up by staff and students,” Chapman says. “Already it is changing the way our lessons are delivered, with staff thinking of new and innovative ways to deliver their curriculum to ensure maximum engagement with our students. With plenty of new features planned, we are sure our SharePoint LMS will be the most important and heavily used piece of technology for all of our students, teachers and parents for many years to come. What a great investment!”

Communications Enabled Business Processes: The Next Step in UCC

If you’ve already begun incorporating unified communications and collaboration into your organisation, employees have likely realised several benefits from an individual and team level.

These areas are where unified communications and collaboration, or UCC, get some of their quick wins — the ability to get a question quickly answered through unified messaging, for a portion of a department to get a project done quickly through collaboration tools. The next rung on the UCC ladder is where true organisational transformation begins to take shape —Communications Enabled Business Processes, or CEBP. This step on the pathway of unified communications and collaboration helps organisations optimise efficiency for business processes that rely on communications.

How UCC leads to CEBP

Communications Enabled Business Processes can leverage UCC tools to automate processes and reduce human latency. UCC tools such as presence and messaging are incorporated into the business process flow to essentially enable a quicker response and resolution to questions, problems or issues needing attention. Communications Enabled Business Processes can involve both interactions between individuals and interactions between individuals and computer systems. For the latter, unified communications tools can be integrated with systems and applications so that all options are used to get a response to an issue — whether it’s a reminder for the person designated to oversee the task or project or an escalation to someone higher in the business.

How CEBP differs

While Communications Enabled Business Processes cover the same areas as unified communications when it comes to boosting customer satisfaction, speeding up decision-making and reducing sales cycle time, they differ in one key way. To reduce communications latency and help streamline operations, Communications Enabled Business Processes are typically activated by a pre-assigned situation, such as a person failing to sign off on a project by a set date or respond to a business issue.

Companywide knowledge of the unified communications tools you plan to embed in your Communications Enabled Business Processes is essential to ensure a higher success rate. It’s also important to carefully choose the individuals who you’d like to be the “on-call” experts to rapidly respond to customer questions, deadlines or business problems as youevolve along the path of unified communications.

Where are you on your UCC journey?

The Future of Unified Communications

As more businesses look to increase productivity and mobility, unified communications and collaboration will grow bigger and better to meet these technology needs. Even with individual tools such as video conferencing and presence making a difference for organisations and integration between the different technologies possible, unified communications is popping up in other areas such as personal mobile devices and the cloud.

Making mobile communications possible

Employees are using their own devices for work, which means they will eventually need access to the same unified communications tools on their mobile phones and tablets. Providers such as Cisco will soon let users access their mobile phones like a corporate desk phone, providing features such as unified inbox, call back and conferencing. Employees will be able to work from the road and still reach colleagues as they would in the office.

Cisco will also offer connection to third-party devices by the end of the year as a new feature of Cisco Unified Communications Manager. This means users can use another device as their office phone and have all calls routed to whatever phone they are using on the road.

A move to the cloud

It seems technology trends are folding into each other more and more, and unified communications and the cloud are the latest marriage. What’s so great about the two together? Well, more freedom in how and when you access your communications tools, for one. Ideally, unified communications platforms hosted in the cloud should let you instant message, video chat or call someone from whatever device and (secure) network you want. There might also be fewer infrastructure maintenance costs and tasks involved.

Datacom has seen organisations leverage both public and private cloud to lay the groundwork for their unified communications programmes. Organisations can also use a hybrid cloud approach to unified communications, the latter of which gives organisations even more flexibility to mix and match the technologies and vendors they want while better controlling costs and implementation challenges.

A vendor-neutral solution stack

In the past, organisations have often opted for a unified communications technology stack from one provider. This makes sense to a point — it can simplify licensing and make management easier. But organisations that don’t consider solutions outside a single provider can miss out on technologies that might be better-suited to their business.

The trend in years to come, according to an article from earlier this year on TMCnet, will have organisations instead looking to unify the best-of-breed technologies under an IT integrator. Not only will this help organisations take advantage of an array of technologies from different providers — it will also allow easier integration of these new technologies into existing systems.

Which communication and collaboration capabilities will your organisation look into?

Datacom Saves Cape Australia Money and Time with Unified Communications

What happens when four businesses become one?

Four disparate IT environments was the outcome for Cape Australia, which supplies maintenance and repair services for the mining and industrial sectors, when it acquired four businesses in 2007.

With operations spread out across Australia and a presence in 27 other countries, Cape Australia needed a way to integrate this tangled technology, which involved incongruent systems and modes of operation.

Consistent collaboration

Cape Australia decided to move forward with a strategy for bringing together its multiple IT environments, aptly named “One Way.” Started in 2009, the One Way project involved Datacom’s work from design through to implementation to deliver a single suite of applications to all users in all locations.

Key in the project was a Microsoft stack of unified communication and collaboration technologies to fuel better communication among Cape Australia’s employees both across the country and the world. Datacom implemented Microsoft Exchange 2010 for the email messaging service and voice mail consolidation. Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 enabled video conferencing, instant messaging and desktop sharing. For better information sharing and collaboration, Datacom brought in SharePoint Server 2010. To round out the unified communications piece of the project, Datacom replaced more than 30 branch networks with an integrated IP telephony solution with a solid voice system.

In addition to the UCC piece, Datacom implemented a new server and storage infrastructure, security solution and management tools.

An outstanding outcome

The UCC implementation quickly helped Cape Australia to save time and money in several ways. Each staff member has saved between one and two hours a day thanks to the improved productivity available through the new unified communication and collaboration tools. The video conferencing and online communication tools helped cut executive travel expenses by up to 50 per cent, while IT administration and operational costs have also been cut by half. Telecommunication costs and national call charges were reduced by 100 per cent.

Cape Australia appreciated the best practice knowledge, trusted partnership and professionalism Datacom brought to the project, said Jason Cowie, former CIO and Executive Manager of Business Services for Cape.

“Datacom provided us with best practice knowledge for the design and implementation of the infrastructure and Microsoft technologies that we were seeking to deploy. As our trusted partner, Datacom provided continual suggestions throughout the project on possible improvements to the initial design to enhance integration and user adoption.”

Unified Communications in the Cloud – Your Key to Interconnected Mobility?

With all the potentially disparate technologies unified communications and collaboration involve, pinpointing what you should look for in your UCC solution is no easy task. Add in a Bring Your Own Device scenario, and there’s certainly something for everyone – and more for your overtasked IT department to manage. If you listen to all the voices, you’ll likely wind up with a jumble of technologies that don’t work together or across devices, which defeats the very aim of your foray into UCC.

One solution to achieving interconnectedness and mobility in unified communications is by using the cloud. Cloud lends an easier approach to implementing and integrating various UCC technologies and making them available to users both on and offsite using corporate or personal devices.

Mobility is driving unified communications adoption

The increasing presence of the mobile device in the workplace is the biggest impetus to implement unified communications and collaboration solutions, according to a survey by IDGE Enterprise. Stretching everything an employee can do at his or her desk to a mobile device is a goal for 67 per cent of those IT leaders who responded to the survey. Smartphone and mobile desktop access is already involved in 80 per cent of unified communications deployments, according to a separate poll by CDW.

At the same time, internal IT departments don’t always have the skills or knowledge to support unified communications technologies across devices. A survey by Siemens shows IT departments have problems implementing and managing new unified communications and collaboration tools in 78 per cent of organisations.

How cloud helps

Cloud brings together different unified communications technologies and components and delivers them to these different device types, with little need for extra infrastructure or physical deployments. With this approach, organisations can transform their dearth of disparate devices into a connected employee network. There’s a benefit to remote or mobile employees as well. By deploying unified communications through the cloud, these workers can get communications while they’re off the company network.

As for the management aspect, UCC delivered through a cloud provider could give organisations a window into security and access controls for different mobile devices. As new technologies get added, the organisation doesn’t need to worry about migrations or replacing old systems because cloud allows different technologies to coexist.

What are the goals you’re hoping to achieve with your UCC solution?